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Polish museum develops innovative method to document wrecks

Three shipwrecks resting in the Gulf of Gdansk have been documented in three dimensions by workers of the National Maritime Museum (NMN) in Gdansk. The modern method allows underwater archaeologists to work effectively even with minimal visibility. The procedure is as follows – the divers go underwater equipped with cameras. Then they take a huge
Published: January 13, 2015 - 18:15
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 09:27
Polish museum develops innovative method to document wrecks

Three shipwrecks resting in the Gulf of Gdansk have been documented in three dimensions by workers of the National Maritime Museum (NMN) in Gdansk. The modern method allows underwater archaeologists to work effectively even with minimal visibility.

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The procedure is as follows – the divers go underwater equipped with cameras. Then they take a huge number of photos of all the elements of the wrecks and their surroundings, additionally from various angles of view. Then, with the help of specialised computer software, the acquired photos are combined into a coherent whole, creating a photogrammetric, i.e. an accurate, three-dimensional image of the documented object.

The map also includes the surroundings of the wreck. The innovative method makes it possible to document ships at the place of their discovery in a non-invasive way, which is an alternative to traditional underwater drawing documentation, which is much more time-consuming and usually less accurate.

“The spatial, three-dimensional model of the wreck built on the basis of the photograms makes it possible to present its state of preservation and the spatial arrangement of its individual elements,” – says Tomasz Bednarz, underwater archaeologist, head of 3D works from the NMM Underwater Research Department.

The method was first used in 2013 to document a 19th century wreck called the ‘Porcelanowiec’ due to its ceramic artefacts mainly English porcelain and faience from Staffordshire. Photogrammetry of this ship was the first attempt in Poland and one of the first in the world to make underwater 3D documentation of an archaeological site.

This year, underwater archaeologists used a new method to document the “Głazik”, a more than 200-year-old vessel transporting stone material. As Tomasz Bednarz explains, the documentation method was improved after last year’s experience on the “Porcelanowiec”.

Poland_wrecks_02

“The 3D model of the wreck F 53.31 +Glazik+ was created on the basis of over 6,000 photograms. It is of much better quality than last year’s 3D model of the wreck +Porcelanowiec+,” emphasises Tomasz Bednarz. – “We are happy that we can create these models even in low water transparency, without any loss in their quality. Just one metre of visibility is enough for us to create such a model.”

Bednarz believes that models are an excellent form of archiving sites and can be used to monitor the state of preservation of underwater objects and changes occurring on them. If such changes are observed at the site, it is possible to model the object again and compare the obtained images. Another important aspect is the possibility to create animations and any shots of underwater sites and their particular elements, also for exhibition and educational purposes.

The method has been applied and developed in parallel since 2013 by two research centres – the National Maritime Museum in Gdańsk and Texas A&M University (Project Gnalic). The research conducted in Poland is possible thanks to co-financing by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of both the last year’s project on the Porcelain Ship and this year’s project on the Glazik. Work on a similar documentation of another vessel lying in the Gulf of Gdansk is currently being finalised.

Source: PAP – Science in Poland Photo: National Maritime Museum in Gdańsk

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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